Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Law Gets in the Way.

I like Plato. 

Of all the philosophers, he's the best. 

He was a handsome bastard, with one of those awesome ancient Greek 'short hair and long beard' combos they used to rock way back then in the B.C's. And sandals! But apart from that, he was just a regular guy, who helped to metaphorically lay the foundations of Western culture, which is the real reason you've probably heard of him. 

Being an 'ancient' Greek, as opposed to a contemporary one, he had the interesting distinction of having a death date earlier than his birthdate. You try doing that nowadays! I read on Wikipedia that when Plato was an infant, bees settled on his lips, an augury of the sweetness of style in which he would discourse philosophy. I had a bird shit on my eye when I was a toddler, which I see as a foretoken of the gift I have for removing painful burdens from others, through the skill and truth of my observations. But this isn't about me. It's not about Plato either, which may be shocking to you, seeing as I've just been talking about him. No, like all matters of import, it is about a chance meeting in a bar. But we're not there yet. 

My favourite work of Plato, is easily 'The Laws'. It's one of the few things I studied in my 8 years at University, that I actually paid any attention to (apart from, of course, the female student body). To cut a long discourse short, the meat and potatoes of the work concerns itself with virtue, that being the quality that all lawmakers should wish to instil, via the constitution of a city/State, into the extant citizenry. The problem with it, and the reason why Plato's fabled city of Magnesia doesn't exist today, is that philosophers tend to overlook the strenuous ethical contortions general humans have to achieve in order to fit into the framework. Think Olympics for houseplants, or 'Pimp my Ride' for your's a bit beyond simply a stretch. 

People just don't like acting well, unless it damn well suits them, which is why the law we have in Australia is so convenient (for the most part). As much as we don't like paying taxes, or not being allowed to murder the people who kick the backs of our seats in movie theatres and in aeroplanes, we do enjoy the protection those laws extend to us, when we don't feel like getting murdered or even just mildly threatened. As much as we obey the law, because we live in fear of the law (as opposed to the Platonic style of 'obeying the law, because we are educated and edified by it'), it gets the job done, which works for (the majority of) us. 

It doesn't always work for me though, because people do kick the back of my seat at the movies or on flights. In fact, and I'm not sure why this is, but I can't remember a flight or a movie where someone didn't repeatedly kick the back of my seat! Luckily it isn't against the law to accidentally spill your drink over people, or if on a plane, to suddenly swing your chair into a reclining position, hitting them in the face with it, or spilling their own drink all over them. Drinks cost money, so this is very satisfying, like shooting an attacker with their own gun, which is clearly something else I do all the time. Just not on planes. 

So now to the point of this story, which happens under the protection of the laws governing the wonderful island nation of Australia, late at night, in a bar somewhere in Melbourne. This particular bar is called the Jawa bar, not so much for the owners love of the films of George Lucas, but more after a kind of motorcycle manufactured in the former Czechoslovakia, before it became The Czech Republic, and a place you never want to catch a train, in that order. 

I want you to imagine that you're in this place, there are people all around you, and whatever your sexual proclivity leans toward, within reasonable norms, your eyes are happy. 

He's at your side all of a sudden, and you kick yourself internally for not seeing him in time to go the other way. He talks to you, engages you in a  conversation you don't want, and his topics are so mind-numbingly boring you have moments of wondering if he actually knows, and this is how he gets his kicks. Annoyingly, he also has an in-built talent for standing directly in the way of the hot (insert gender here) you were making eyes at a moment earlier. 

He's a nice guy though, and you don't want to offend him. So you try to listen, and feel terrible when you know he sees your eyes wandering, the desperation written all over your face, praying for an off-ramp. The stifled yawns, your eyes on everything but him. But he doesn't let up, and you are amazed to learn though experience that it's actually possible to be so bored you want to vomit. That's your body fighting the infection of his words. Your ear holes constrict, nasal passages revert to mono. eyes squint, trying to impede the flow of words to your cerebral cortex, to your amygdala, the part of you that's trying not to die from hopelessness. 

If he doesn't realise what he's doing, when it's so obvious, then he's a ninja master of the old school, the kind that can kill you with his brain without trying. An assassin, albeit one who throws terms like "Dual quad core xeon processors" instead of throwing stars. An assassin, who can kill out in the open, bludgeoning you repeatedly, suffocating you by filling the air with words that, while permeable enough in small groups of under six, become smothering when installed professionally into full sentences. 

Like a poisonous cloud of supermodels, like herding blobs of mercury. Absolutely aggravating, absolutely pointless. And you wonder what it is about you that makes him feel welcome? You're fully aware of your pained expression, you can't hide it, you've tried.  And then, from out of the dense cloud of verbs and antonyms, comes a gap in the conversation. 

You feel refreshed, you're in a rainforest clearing, the sky is above you, you are free! He stops to take a pull on his beer, both of you looking around the room, and not at each other. "Yep, yep..." He says to himself breathily, as if he too is bored by his conversational ninjitsu, and you finally feel like it's over. No one is saying anything, both of you just looking off into space. A respite. Mercy! Proof of the baby Jesus. 

But no, it's not that. He's just warming up. Then the vines swirl around you, and you're lost under the dense canopy of his letters and punctuations, and a part of you dies, the part that had hope and loved life. And you hate him then. You imagine your hands around his stupid throat, choking him, while he fights to rasp even more words out. His eyes like a freshly landed trout, goggly, and conveying that "what the hell is this!?" feeling. A fantasy. A fantasy of control. Escapism from the real world, you and him in a bar, surrounded by a thick cloud of irrelevance, and he's got you going ga-ga, protected by Plato and his law, the law that says you can't strangle someone to death for being boring, regardless of how good they are at it.

So I had to settle for being lawful, and, rising from my bar stool, I walked away from him mid-sentence and out the door. I might have stayed in the bar if I felt he wouldn't have simply followed me and kept talking. But clearly his ability to empathize with others regarding the high tide mark of his boring-ness was damaged, to put it nicely.

I don't remember ever being so glad to be by myself after that moment...

This is knifey, from 'the internet'.


hairy said...

i came across you page(literally and figuratively ) by the vernacular

knifey said...

Thanks hairy! People like you make my life feel worthwhile...